BELOW THE BOTTOM RUNG- 37 But the dinner party is not a success. Why ? Because the Pandit cannot eat. Why ? We shall see. B------had taken a great deal of trouble about this dinner. He knew that the Pandit was a vegetarian, and so he provided only fruit; moreover, he chose only such fruits as Nature had ensured from outside pollution, such as oranges and bananas. And he had been even more careful than that. He had bought on entirely new dinner service; for he was aware that if the Pandit were asked to eat off a plate which might once have had meat on it, the worst would happen. The Pandit would be horrified beyond measure; he would never feel clean again. So there we are. Fresh fruit, covered with thick skins. New plates, never used before. Old gentleman, anxious to please host, staring at banana or whatever it is. All to n,o avail. He cannot eat the banana. Sometime, some- where, somehow, somebody might have touched something, and made it unclean. He dare not risk it. He is a brave old man but he is not as brave as all that. So the demands of courtesy must be set aside. The dinner, we repeat, was not a success. This story has been told flippantly, because at first sight it falls into the category of farce. But is it entirely farcial ? Malaviya, at the time, was leader of Congress. He was, and still is, one of the most powerful personalities in India. He is the sort of man who, if and when India gains independence, will help to represent his country at international conferences. To put it mildly, his extreme orthodoxy may tend to slow up the business of the day. Supposing that we translate this situation into Western terms* Imagine a conference between Churchill, Roosevelt, Stalin and Chiang Kai-Shek on orthodox Hindu lines. What would happen ? Well—most of them would be popping in and out of the bath- room during the greater part of the proceedings. Churchill would sign a document with the same pen as Roosevelt and would rush to have a sfiower. Stalin would inadvertently drink a cup of tea handed him by Chiang Kai-Shek and hurry away to gargle* Roosevelt would constantly be calling for a flit spray, and if ^anybody ever got any business done it would be such a miracle that half the war debt would have to be sacrificed on the altar of Krishna.